E-commerce stores have seen a huge boom in the last few years, something which has been helped massively by the Covid lockdowns. They offer huge amounts of convenience for the consumer as well as healthy profits for the retailer, so it seems like there is nothing to lose. However, there are some serious legal considerations that e-commerce stores have to be aware of if they are going to continue trading safely and correctly.
Terms and conditions
The terms and conditions are effectively the contract that the buyer agrees to when they make a purchase through your website. It should specify the choice of law and jurisdiction of wherever you are based so that any cases arising take place in your own legal system.
In the majority of cases, your buyers will pay for something upfront on your website and you will deliver the item within a specified timeframe. Unfortunately, there will be occasions when these transactions are fraudulent, as a buyer uses false information or someone else’s payment details. They may also falsely claim that the product did not arrive or chargeback their credit card for the product that they have received. There are legal routes that you can pursue if this is the case but the outcomes of these are uncertain at best.
How you get the goods to your customers is very important, so you need to have a clearly defined shipping or delivery policy. This gives customers reassurance on how long they should expect to wait for their items and how much it will cost them to be delivered. If you are running a promotion based on discounts for shipping, you will need to be clear about what the conditions are to qualify for this.
No matter how great your products are, there will always be times when customers look for a refund. Something might not be what is expected, it could be a duplicate of something, or it could be defective in some way. Sometimes it is simply the case that the buyer has changed their minds. As an online retailer, you must refund cancelled purchases within the statutory 14 day “cooling off” period. For more information, read Consumer rights.
Your refunds policy (or terms and conditions) should be clear and should also outline who is responsible for the cost of returning an item. Try to list as many scenarios as possible to ensure that your customers know exactly where they stand, and you are not left open to abuse or disputes.
All website owners will need to be aware of data protection laws, even if they do not sell a product. If you collect any kind of personal information about your website visitors, such as their names, addresses and phone numbers, then you will need to be registered under the Data Protection Act. You can only hold information, which is relevant to your business, and if a customer asks for their details to be removed from your records or for them to see what you hold, then you are legally required to do so. Read Data protection for more information.
Ecommerce is a growing and valuable sector to be a part of, but it is important that you are fully in line with the law at all times for the benefit of your business and your customers.
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